By Kyle LoJacono
Zephyrhills graduate and current St. Johns River State College (SJR State) pitcher Chris Fern has signed a letter of intent to play next at the University of Virginia.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” Fern said. “The University of Virginia is the perfect place for me to continue my baseball career and complete my education.”
Current Bulldogs athletic director Bruce Cimorelli was Zephyrhills’ baseball coach when Fern was in high school and has high praise for his former pupil.
“He’s a great athlete and very hard worker,” Cimorelli said. “Great student and will do very well at Virginia. Chris has worked very hard to get where he is today and I wish him all the success in the world.”
Fern signed with SJR State after his Bulldogs career and recently graduated with an associate’s degree from the junior college. He was Vikings closer the last two years, where he set the program record with 17 career saves and nine in a season as a sophomore. The lefty posted a 7-3 record with a 2.70 ERA in college.
He also helped the Vikings earn a trip to the Florida Community College Activities Association (FCCAA) state tournament for the first time in 21 years as a freshman.
Fern was a two-time All Mid-Florida Conference selection and was named conference and FCCAA Fireman of the Year in 2011 as the best relief pitcher. He was also the SJR State Male Student-Athlete of the Year for the 2009-10 school year.
“We are so proud of Chris,” said Ross Jones, SJR State baseball coach and athletic director. “He put himself in position to be highly successful because of his character and work ethic. Chris is one of the most dedicated young men I have ever coached. Chris is also one of the most complete, well-rounded young men I have ever coached. He’s as dedicated to being a great student as well as a baseball player.”
Fern begins classes at Virginia in August and will have two years of eligibility left with the Cavaliers, a Division I program in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Virginia has reached the NCAA tournament the last seven years, including an appearance in the College World Series in 2009. The Cavaliers were ranked a unanimous No. 1 team in the major national rankings during this season.
“The strength of their baseball program and their academic tradition was the deciding factor,” Fern said. “This is really the best of both worlds for me. I’m going to play baseball for the number one ranked baseball team in the nation and will get a degree from the number one ranked public institution in the nation.”